Demonstrations in Sudan’s Khartoum Khartoum in April 2019. (cc) AlAdwaaa.Online | Yasser Haroun

The 30-year authoritarian rule by the Islamist National Congress Party (NCP) came to an end in April 2019. While Islamists are still active in the military, the security and the civil service, their political future and chances to ascend to power again are uncertain.

For decades, the Sudanese Islamic Movement followed by the National Congress Party, embedded themselves within every institution throughout the country. This extended to the military, intelligence services, and other bureaucracies.

In April 2019, with the fall of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir, this total control of came to an abrupt end – a crushing defeat of the Islamists’ ideological project. Although Sudanese Muslims are conservative, many believe the time for political Islam in Sudan is over.

Dr Haider Ibrahim, a political sociologist and a Sudanese intellectual, said in an interview with AlAdwaa.Online that Islamists have no future in Sudan. “People have tried them for 30 years, and they would never try again what had been tried before.”

“People have tried them for 30 years, and they would never try again.”

Dr Haider Ibrahim

Asked if reforms similar to the ones introduced by the Tunisian Ennahdha party’s Rachid Ghannouchi could help the Sudanese Islamic movement to ascend to power again, Dr Ibrahim explicitly said that “if this happens, they will not be Islamists anymore”.

He elaborated further: “There is no Shariah law in the Ennahdha party, and Rachid Ghannouchi has achieved this. Therefore, I do not consider the party as an Islamic one. For me, Ghannouchi is an extension of Habib Bourguiba.”

Al-Hadi Mohamed Alamin, specialised in Islamic groups, agrees with Dr Haider, also said that there is no political future for the Sudanese Islamists. However, he cautions, “Islamists have ingenious abilities to plot and to delay processes”.

Alamin believes that they are working against Sudan’s transitional process “with the help of their internal and external allies, which continue to be close to them and provide help and support”.

Rashid Abdelgader, a young Islamic activist who participated in the revolution, said that the revolution did not take place against the Islamists, but rather against a corrupt regime.

He said that two crucial things need to be done to safeguard a future for political Islam in Sudan: Islamists should stop disrupting the transitional government and its work; and they should also restore their outreach, and try to produce a new Islamic discourse that has a programme which is based on human values rather than ideology.

“They should use the time to reflect on their past mistakes.”

Dr Abdel Wahab Al-Afandi

“If the Islamists in Sudan succeed in proposing a political Islam that conforms with human values – as Islam essentially does – Islamists will have a future,” he said. He added that if a convincing programme is developed, it will make the Islamists a significant political bloc in Sudan.

Dr Abdel Wahab al-Afandi, Professor of Political Science at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, said that “attempts of Islamists to restore their political status without restoring their moral standing is a meaningless act”.

According to an article published by ‘The New Arab’, al-Afandi said that Islamists “should completely stay away from power and should allow the new government to perform its tasks. They should use the time to reflect on their past mistakes and instead of waiting for the state trial, they should hold trials to discover their mistakes: who is responsible for them and who should be punished.”

“Sudanese Islamism seems to have a tough time ahead.”

Munzoul Assal

While opinions on the future of political Islam in Sudan differ, one fact can’t be brushed away: “The 2018 uprising emboldened people and inculcated a sense of freedom and critical thinking, something that does not tally with the Islamists’ organisational ethos that embraces blind loyalty,” writes Munzoul Assal, Prof at the University of Khartoum, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology.

“While the Sudanese people are religiously conservative, Sudanese Islamism seems to have a tough time ahead,” he adds.